The Best Tools for Cooking Lobster Like a Professional
We all know that lobster is the star of summer seafood, but lobster recipes can actually be enjoyed all year long. From lobster ravioli to lobster mac and cheese, these crustaceans are totally versatile—they're just as delicious when grilled on a beach as they are when simmered into a cozy winter meal. With all the fantastic lobster recipes at your fingertips, it's about time to learn how to cook lobster properly. Before you start, it's important to set yourself up for success with some helpful tools.
There are plenty of opinions out there about how to kill, cook, and crack lobsters correctly. If you've never done it before, the task can be daunting. It's a messy job but one that's easy to perfect with a few good tools and tips. To help you get started, we've rounded up a few of our favorite gadgets that help make the messy job a little easier. Above all, you'll need a heavy-duty stockpot like the All-Clad Stainless Steel Stockpot that can poach, steam and boil even the biggest lobsters. Read on for more essential tools for cooking lobster at home.
Our Top Picks:
- Best Stock Pot: All-Clad Stainless Steel Stockpot
- Best Utility Knife: Victorinox 8-Inch Chef's Knife
- Best Cutting Board: Oxo Good Grips Carving and Cutting Board
- Best Kitchen Towels: Royal Classic Kitchen Cotton Towels
- Best Kitchen Shears: J.A. Henckels Serrated Poultry Shears
- Best Cracker and Pick set: Williams Sonoma Seafood Crackers and Picks
Best Stock Pot: All-Clad Stainless Steel Stockpot
Best Utility Knife: Victorinox 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Best Cutting Board: Oxo Good Grips Carving and Cutting Board
Best Kitchen Towels: Royal Classic Kitchen Cotton Towels
Best Kitchen Shears: J.A. Henckels Serrated Poultry Shears
Best Cracker and Pick Set: Williams Sonoma Seafood Crackers and picks
Factors to Consider
How to Humanely Butcher Lobsters
If you've ever been told to put a live lobster directly into boiling water, you might want to reconsider who is giving you cooking advice. There is a correct (and humane) way to butcher live lobsters. Before you get started, make sure to set yourself up with a station to minimize mess. Grab a heavy duty, sturdy cutting board–preferably one that isn't porous–and lay an old kitchen towel on top of it. The kitchen towel will help soak up any liquid and will prevent the lobster from sliding around on your board. You'll also want a heavy duty utility knife with a broad blade and sturdy handle. Be careful not to use a brand-new, super sharp chef's knife. Cutting through the lobster shell will dull the blade, so I prefer to designate one of my older, tougher utility knives to use on lobster.
Lay the lobster flat on the kitchen towel over the cutting board, belly side down, and hold the lobster tail firmly with your non-dominant hand (I like to wrap it with a second old kitchen towel). Place the tip of the knife at the top of the head, behind the eyes, where the head and body meet and form a "T." Press the knife down until the tip hits the board. You may see the lobster tail or claw spasm but at this point any remaining movements are just nerve impulses.
How to Cook a Whole Lobster
After the lobster is deceased, place it in a large stock pot of boiling water. I like to season the water with aromatics like lemons, peppercorns, thyme and a dash or two of Old Bay. You may hear some squeaks, but contrary to what you might've been told, that's not the lobster "screaming." It's the sound of steam escaping through joints in the shell.
How long to boil lobster depends on how big it is, so make sure to get an idea of the size before you leave the fishmonger (don't worry–they'll charge you accordingly.) Also consider that the necessary cook time starts when the water is boiling, so be sure to factor in the additional time it takes the water to return to a boil after adding the lobsters into the pot. Once your lobsters are in and the water has returned to a boil, cook for 10-13 minutes for a one pound lobster, and add three to six minutes for every additional half pound. Lobsters should be a bright, vibrant red when cooked thoroughly and the meat should be firm and white.
How to Cook Lobster Tails and Claws
Though you can absolutely cook and enjoy lobsters whole, it can be beneficial to separate the lobster tails from the lobster claws and knuckles before cooking. Lobster tail meat is much more dense than claw meat, so it requires a longer cooking time. To separate the tail from the rest of the body, use sharp kitchen shears to cut along the backside of the lobster, where the tail meets the body. Cut completely through the meat and shell all the way around the lobster. To separate the claws and arms, simply hold the body firmly and twist to break the arms off. Take turns placing the tails and claws in boiling water separately, and cook for one minute per ounce.
Laura Denby is a food writer and former professional chef who has spent many summers as a private chef working across Long Island and the Hamptons. Laura has a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education, and utilizes her professional cooking experience to inform her thoroughly researched and tested product buying guides. You can find more of Laura's work at FoodNetwork.com, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens and Taste of Home.